A provision of the USA Patriot Act that makes it illegal to give “expert advice or assistance” to foreign terrorist organizations was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. The Los Angeles Times says that U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins in Los Angeles found the law’s language so vague that “it could be construed to include unequivocally pure speech and advocacy protected by the 1st Amendment.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights in Washington, D.C., which filed the suit, said it was the first time that any part of the post-9/11 anti-terrorism law had been declared unconstitutional. The law contains more than 300 pages of provisions that give sweeping powers to law enforcement authorities. The suit was filed for two individuals and five organizations that support the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. The State Department listed both as terrorist groups in 1997. The American plaintiffs said they were interested only in providing humanitarian aid to the groups. “The atriot Act draws no distinction whatsoever between expert advice in human rights, designed to deter violence, and expert advice on how to build a bomb,” said Georgetown University law Prof. David Cole, an attorney with the center.
The contested part of the law bars anyone from knowingly providing support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. that includes money, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documents, communications equipment, weapons, explosives, personnel, and transportation. Medicines and religious materials are exempt.